“Things have gone by so fast,” Gregory remarked from his hotel room.

That may seem like an odd comment from a fifth-year senior, who is in his second year of post-graduate work in agricultural systems management after earning his bachelor’s degree in May, 2008. But a lot has happened since Gregory left the family farm near Blackburn.

After red-shirting as a freshman, Gregory has played in almost every game for the Tigers the last four years and has been their starting guard for three seasons. Away from field, he’s been involved in a myriad of community activities, whether doing promotion for the United Way or Central Missouri Food Bank to involving the Mizzou football team in the Adopt-A-Family program for Thanksgiving.

Gregory’s performance on the gridiron, in the classroom and serving his fellow man has been recognized.

Not only is he a three-time all-Big 12 Conference offensive lineman, being named to the second team the last two seasons, but has twice been selected for the league’s scholar-athlete squads — and is a finalist for Academic All-American. He was a nominee for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, leading the competition when public voting was completed Dec. 3, although no official announcement has been made.

Some of this would have been missed had he not returned for one more year in Columbia. Projected as being between a fourth- and seventh-round selection in last spring’s NFL draft, Gregory had turned in his papers — but then opted to return to school.

“I knew I had some surgeries to get through and get my (master’s) degree,” Gregory explained.

Although the 2008 campaign was somewhat of a letdown following the heights achieved by Missouri the previous season, when the Tigers were ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history, back-to-back Big 12 North championships lent promise to his final season.

It didn’t quite work out as well as hoped. After a 4-0 start, Mizzou met Nebraska — and Gregory faced Heisman finalist Ndamukong Suh — on a rainy Thursday in Columbia, suffering a 27-12 loss. The Tigers dropped three of the next four games as well.

“Very, very trying,” Gregory admitted about a frustrating season. “It started off good, then those three [straight] losses and trying to battle through everything, keeping the team on the right track.”

Still, the Tigers are in a position to win a third straight bowl game for the first time and are gunning for the 40th victory in four seasons — the most for any Missouri senior class.

“It’s been a great ride so far,” Gregory said.

Gregory may don the Black and Gold again for a senior all-star game, but after today the focus of his football career will be the April draft. At the moment, he’s in the process of choosing an agent.

What are Gregory’s NFL prospects? Consider that among the four senior offensive linemen on last year’s all-Big 12 second team, three are on pro rosters — with Texas Tech’s Louis Vasquez the starting guard for the playoff-bound San Diego Chargers.

“I’m going to put everything I can into it,” Gregory said, “Go as long as I can is my main goal.”

Considering that the NFL minimum salary is $310,000 per year, which goes up rapidly for each year of service, Gregory should have a tidy grub stake at his disposal whenever his career ends.

“I want to exhaust every resource in football,” Gregory declared. “Then I can go back to the farm.”

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